Owen Walsh

Owen Walsh


I have been at the University of Leeds since 2012. In 2015, I graduated with a BA in English and History having completed a research project which focused on Claude McKay. I completed an MA in Race and Resistance in 2016. My MA research looked at how and to what extent racial binaries were challenged in the work of Claude McKay and William Attaway. I began my PhD at Leeds in October 2016, and anticipate completing it in 2020.



(forthcoming) '"Betwixt and Between": The Black Internationalist Practice of Juanita Harrison', Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International


'When Black Cinema Went Soviet', History Workshop, 29/5/2019, http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/when-black-cinema-went-soviet/

'Mexican Migration in the Fiction of William Attaway', US Studies Online, 22/4/2019, https://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/mexican-migration-in-the-fiction-of-william-attaway/


I am an editor for the UK Annual of Postgraduate Hip-Hop Studies, https://ukjhhs.wordpress.com/.

Conference papers

‘Langston Hughes and Juanita Harrison in Imperial Japan: Protest and Performance in the Black Pacific’, SHAFR Annual Meeting, New Orleans, June 2020

(invited talk) ‘Beyond the Black Atlantic: Re-mapping Black Internationalism during the 1930s’, Sheffield Modern International History Group, University of Sheffield, December 2019

‘Japanese State Surveillance and the Making of Black Radicalism in the 1930s’, HOTCUS PGR Conference, Rothermere Institute of the Americas, Unviersity of Oxford, October 2019 

(panel organiser) 'Juanita Harrison on Veiling and Communism: A Proletarian Black Woman Intervenes in Global Controversies', African-American Intellectual History Society conference, University of Michigan, March 2019

'American Imperialism in the Novels of William Attaway', BAAS PGR conference, Northumbria University, November 2018

'Racial Disidentification in the Travel Diary of Juanita Harrison', Society for the History of Women in the Americas Annual Conference, London School of Economics, June 2018

'The "English Inning" of Claude McKay, Transnational Writer and Socialist', What's Happening in Black British History VIII, University of Huddersfield, May 2018

'The Communist Politics and Primitivist Sensibilities of Claude McKay', The Red and the Black: The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic, University of Central Lancashire, October 2017


2019 HOTCUS Doctoral Travel Award

2018 BAAS Postgraduate Travel Award

2017, 2018, 2019 PGR Extraordinary Fund travel grant

2016 School of History and IMS PhD Scholarship

2016 Marion Sharples Prize for the best dissertation by a taught MA student in the School of History

Memberships and affiliations

British Association of American Studies (BAAS)

Historians of the Twentieth-Century United States (HoTCUS)

African-American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)

Royal Historical Society (RHS)


I have experience teaching on a range of modules including a survey module on The Modern World, a Level 2 module on Black Politics, and two skills-based modules at Level 1 for which I also designed 11 weeks of content.

Research interests

My research focuses broadly on histories of the twentieth-century US, the African diaspora, and the international Left, particularly as they relate to the intersection of creative and political practices. 

My PhD project is concerned with the spaces, places, and scales of Black internationalism during the Depression years, reframing our understanding of Black politics by exploring the internationalisms of African American intellectuals with roots on the US West Coast. Focusing both on global travel and local political activism, the thesis re-maps Black globality in two ways. First, it focuses on non-Atlantic geographies of Black internationalism. In the Soviet Union, across Asia and the North Pacific, Black travellers rearticulated their relationship with US capitalism and modernity, reimagined their position in global cultures and structures of empire, and negotiated international networks of state surveillance. Second, the thesis roots these stories of internationalism in the US West Coast’s multiracial communities, where conceptions of global community developed in conversation with Communist radicalism and progressive nationalism. Black engagement with the militant, multiracial California Communist movement of the early 1930s manifested the expansive sense of solidarity of such Afro-cosmopolitan figures as Langston Hughes and journalist and lawyer Loren Miller. The collapsed distinction between interracial and international politics continued to be evident later in the decade, as Leftists and Black activists shifted their rhetorical and strategic emphasis to a civic-nationalist Americanism during the Popular Front period and beyond.

In tracing this history, the project foregrounds less canonical contributors to the Black internationalist tradition, including domestic worker-turned-travel writer Juanita Harrison and Popular Front novelist William Attaway. The thesis helps to reconceptualise the relationship between the domestic and the global in American history, understanding multiracial organising and New Deal nationalism as entangled with the politics of transnational solidarity. It foregrounds the interwoven dynamics of Black transnationality and American nationality, tracing an errant geography of internationalism that is as intensely localised as it is globetrotting. 


  • MA Race and Resistance (Distinction), 2016
  • BA English and History (First-class honours), 2015